I provide the following facts and opinions on behalf of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615.
Firstly, ATU 615 members agree with the writer with respect to routes and times are arbitrary. Our members have and continue to raise scheduling and overcrowding full busses to our employer, Saskatoon Transit in an effort to ensure our schedules are realistic to maintain and enough capacity to transport passengers in a safe reliable manner. Our operators are constantly reminded and expected to make every effort to maintain schedule but not at the expense of risking safety or breaking traffic laws. If transit riders took the writers advice and contacted Council and left messages at transit.saskatoon.ca they would be speaking directly to the people responsible and in a position to make change. Somehow the writer has misconstrued the fact that the union is held responsible for designing the schedule and accountable when the system fails to meet the needs of transit riders.
ATU members continue to come to work diligently and many work overtime hours in all areas, in an effort to keep the system running. To make claim that absenteeism is a cause for an inadequate bus system is totally false. Many of our members work longer hours in an attempt to ensure enough busses are available to provide the service expected. Perhaps the writer should ask the question of the Maintenance Manager why the need to cancel the overload or extra busses scheduled because of lack of available equipment. Perhaps the writer should ask the Route Planning Department Manager why the busses regularly run behind schedule on a daily basis and what steps are being taken to remedy this. With respect I disagree with the writer’s comment that suggests transit operators do not deal with any more exposure to people than other professions. Cramming 80-90 people in a 40 foot bus standing shoulder to shoulder for 15-20 minutes or perhaps longer does not remotely compare to customer service, retail, health care or education professions. Several studies have proven the nature of bus operators work translates to higher risk of all major illnesses including diabetes, hypertension, coronary, back problems, etc. On a daily basis, transit operators deal with verbal assaults, threats, etc. PTSD is not uncommon and physical assaults including operators spat on continues to occur even more frequently. Despite having said that, our average medical leave for all union members in 2016 was 68hrs per year, well below Regina and other transit properties elsewhere. For the writer to suggest busses are unsafe and/or operators are not always sick when they call in is a puzzling statement. The nature of our work and the fact that we interact with up to 500 people on a daily basis, simply increases risk of illness. Would you as a transit rider want your operator coughing and sneezing on you as you enter the bus spreading germs or would you prefer that your operator was in good health in order to operate the bus safely? In the event our employer suspects misuse of sick leave ,they have the ability to seek doctors notes and most certainly do not need to spend additional taxpayer dollars by hiring an outside company to do the work ,when our internal transit staff have dealt with this for over a hundred years.
ATU unions across North America are currently campaigning transit employers (including Saskatoon) and bus manufacturers, politicians in an effort to improve our workstations, making a healthier, safer ,work environment. Improving shift schedules , route schedules with sufficient time for necessity breaks and reliable service, drivers shields for protection, less blind spots in drivers area ,better heater and cooling systems are all necessary to help reduce illness and in effect translate to less absenteeism and healthier operators.
I agree with the writer when she states to contact the people if you want to change and address the issues affecting our transit system. I assure you that our union members are not the reason your system is not meeting your expectations. We also strive for what the writer is striving for. A safe, reliable transit system that meets or exceeds expectations. Quoting the comment “nothing ever changes without your drive to make it so” I couldn’t agree more.
If the writer is suggesting that the union should have the sole responsibility of improving the system, then perhaps she is on to something.
President/Business Agent ATU 615 Saskatoon